Tennessee football's coaching staff has been hard at work with blow torches and wrenches trying to set up a river of prospects heading to Knoxville from Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College.
One of the more elite recruits in the country just officially started his career as a Volunteer this week as former FOX Sports Next five-star wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson got enrolled into the second summer session.
The two-time JUCO All-American is not the only Blue Dragon that is swapping out his Hutchinson colors to don the orange and white as outside linebacker DeVondre Campbell and nose guard Ben Bradley are verbally committed to Tennessee in the Class of 2013.
Coach Derek Dooley and his staff don't want to stop there as they are in hot pursuit of defensive lineman Toby Johnson.
The College Park, Ga., native is high on the option of playing alongside his JUCO teammates on the next level.
"That'd be real good," Johnson told InsideTennessee. "Me and Ben, we've been talking about playing together. I don't know. Probably going to be one of those things, you never know, depends on how this season turns out."
Johnson got a chance to see some of what Tennessee has to offer as he unofficially visited during spring workouts, admitting that "everything" stood out to him. He also noted the family atmosphere on The Hill.
"I got a relationship with players on campus on my visit. I talked to the players a lot. That just stood out to me right there. I could build a relationship with them like my own family and stuff," he said.
|Vol senior Steven Fowlkes (pictured) is just one of several connections Johnson has to Knoxville.|
"That's a good thing there, that's a big factor," Johnson said. "Coach Staley is a good coach. He's the one that put me in position to make all those plays last year.
"Coach Staley, he's a player's coach."
The ties don't stop there as Johnson is also friends with Vol fifth-year senior Steven Fowlkes, who was a Class 4A All-State selection while he played with Johnson at Banneker (Ga.) High School.
"I talk to Steve a little bit every now and then," Johnson said. "We've got a real cool relationship.
"I think he's gonna do good this year. I think he'll get a shot to go play in the league."
At 6-foot-4, 290 pounds with experience playing defensive tackle, Johnson has more than enough knowledge and stature to play the defensive end spot in a 3-4 alignment like first-year Tennessee defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri is educating the Volunteers on.
"I'm a big, elusive defensive end. I'm very athletic and someone that loves football, someone that's going to get after the football, someone that's going to dominate the line," said Johnson, who wrapped up his freshman year as a Blue Dragon with 50 tackles (10.5 for loss), nine quarterback hurries, five pass breakups and two sacks.
In charge of getting the difference-maker to sign with the Volunteers had been recruiting coordinator Darin Hinshaw, who played a pivotal role in getting Patterson to ink. However, given that Johnson plays on the opposite side of the ball from what Hinshaw teaches, Tennessee put Sunseri on Johnson as his lead recruiter.
"Coach Sal, he's very enthusiastic. He's a player's coach too. He'll get after it. He believes everything should be done right between the white lines. That's the kind of coach I want to play with. They're going to put you in good position to make plays, and they're going to let the players make plays."
Midyear JUCO prospects sign Dec. 19-Jan. 15 this recruiting cycle. If all goes to plan, both Bradley and Campbell will send their National Letters of Intent to Tennessee during that time. Johnson also plans to be a January enrollee. With that in mind, the thinks he could have his mind made up on a future home by "the third game in the season."
Johnson will have three years to play two seasons at a four-year university.
Defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri is now the lead recruiter on Toby Johnson for Tennessee.